Killing Floor - Lee Child
The first time I heard the name Jack Reacher was on a memorably lame poster a few years ago, advertising Lee Child's latest novel. It said something appallingly cheesy like "He's cool. He's hard. He's Jack Reacher", which made me laugh out loud and vow never to read anything so silly. However, since then I've had Child's novels recommended to me by a number of respectable sources, including Miss Snark's great but sadly defunct blog, and eventually I decided that I might just give this guy a go; after all, if it was any good, there are a lot more Reacher books to follow it up with, and it's always nice to have a new series to trawl through. Killing Floor is Reacher's first outing so would seem to be the place to start.
The back cover declares "Men want to be him. Women want to be with him", (stop, my sides, you're killing me) which is not an auspicious beginning, but inside, things are a lot better. Reacher is an ex-military cop turned hobo, who is arrested as he passes through a small Georgia town; from his first-person narrative, you immediately get the sense of who this character is, simply by the things he notices and the way he notices them - it's very deftly done. Normally I hate books where someone is Arrested For A Murder He Didn't CommitTM, but Reacher's calm and competent handling of his situation somehow made it all OK. As is traditional among enigmatic strangers who ride into town, at first he wants nothing to do with the investigation, but then events conspire to make it personal, and he stays to sort it all out. All standard Man With No Name stuff (apart from the fact that he has a name); there's even a slightly unconvincing romance with some local skirt, who appears to be strong and capable but ultimately still needs rescuing.
There's great pace and a decent amount of grue, but after a while the staccato rhythm of Reacher's narration got rather wearing, as did his tough-guy internal monologue (too many thoughts like "This man was dead. He didn't know it yet, but he had just signed his own death warrant. I would hunt him down..." - I paraphrase, but you get the drift). Aside from all the murders, the baddies' evil plan was just a little underwhelming, and the OMG-must-thwart-villains-by-Sunday ticking timeline puzzlingly pointless. All in all, it was an entertaining bit of vigilante fluff, but I probably wouldn't bother reading any more.